Sunday Souçons #19

Posted 12th March 2023 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Reviews, Sunday Soupçons / 0 Comments

soupçon/ˈsuːpsɒn,ˈsuːpsɒ̃/ noun
1. a very small quantity of something; a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor

Sunday Soupçons is where I scribble mini-reviews for books I don’t have the brainspace/eloquence/smarts to write about in depth – or if I just don’t have anything interesting to say beyond I LIKED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO!

Two five-star mini-reviews for two very different books!

These Imperfect Reflections: Short Stories by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Queer cast, amputee MC, autistic MC

What's the price of revolution backed by artificial intelligence? Can you change the past to free ghosts trapped in endless loops? Do fairy tales always end the same way?

Follow a battle poet on aer quest to save a kingdom; witness the last documentary about alien whales; and travel with the Wolf who is prophesied to eat the sun as they look for alternatives to their fate.

From living trains to space stations populated with monsters, these eleven fantasy and science fiction stories from Merc Fenn Wolfmoor will take you on otherworldly adventures that are tethered to the heart.

An absolutely stunning collection of SFF stories – ranging from near-future sci-fi, to dystopias, to fairytales, to epic secondary-world fantasy – connected by themes of hopepunk resistance. An aroace girl with bells on her toes faces off against a monster; a nonbinary book-sorcerer and their velociraptor bestie team up to rescue a prince; victims of queerphobic dystopias take over the prisons they’re forced into; AIs say no to fascism; Fenrir of Norse mythology (here named simply Wolf) rejects prophecy to find their own dreams – these are just a handful of the gorgeous stories Wolfmoor has gathered here!

If Wolfmoor weren’t already one of my very favourite authors, this collection would cement their place on my auto-buy list. The beautiful prose and incredible imagination on display here is just breathtaking – and I’m very impressed that each story felt so satisfying; usually if I love a short story I wish it was a novel, but while I’d be delighted to see Wolfmoor revisit some of these settings, each story in this collection was the perfect length, exactly right. I don’t say that very often!

TL;DR: Imperfect Reflections? More like perfect reflections; this is flawless, brilliant, an instant new favourite. Everyone who wants to see what queer SFF can do and be needs to pick this one up immediately!

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books #1) by K.J. Charles
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Achillean MC, biracial achillean MC, M/M
PoV: Third-person, past tense, dual PoVs

Abandoned by his father, Gareth Inglis grew up lonely, prickly, and well-used to disappointment. Still, he longs for a connection. When he meets a charming stranger, he falls head over heels—until everything goes wrong and he's left alone again. Then Gareth's father dies, turning the shabby London clerk into Sir Gareth, with a grand house on the remote Romney Marsh and a family he doesn't know.

The Marsh is another world, a strange, empty place notorious for its ruthless gangs of smugglers. And one of them is dangerously familiar...

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. When the new baronet—his old lover—agrees to testify against Joss's sister, Joss acts fast to stop him. Their reunion is anything but happy, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. Soon, all Joss and Gareth want is the chance to be together. But the bleak, bare Marsh holds deadly secrets. And when Gareth finds himself threatened from every side, the gentleman and the smuggler must trust one another not just with their hearts, but with their lives.

It’s KJ Charles, so no one can possibly be surprised when I say that the start of this new series is absolutely marvelous. It has a surprisingly cosy vibe, despite the fact that there’s quite a lot going on and the stakes get extremely high towards the end of the book. I really, really enjoyed the romance, especially because Gareth and Joss deal with their disagreements and conflicts in a wonderfully mature way; there’s plenty of drama, but almost all of it comes from sources external to their relationship. Which is how I prefer it!

I thought Gareth’s discovering a fascination for naturalism – studying insects, mainly – was a really wonderful way to a) make him a character I immediately cared about (the fastest way to make me fall for a character is to give them some kind of passion or interest) and b) metaphorically showcase his growing connection to the marsh, his new home. That Joss and Gareth got to bond over this – Joss helping Gareth find all the little creatures he wants to study, and Gareth teaching Joss about the fauna he’s seen every day of his life – was utterly wonderful, and super sweet. And, imo, really clever!

I also loved the little bit of…political commentary? that we got, especially regarding the ethics of smuggling (since the Doomsdays are not smuggling endangered animals, drugs, or nonconsenting humans, I had no issues with their work to begin with, but the breakdown of how the trade bans only hurt normal everyday people was enlightening, and made me very pro-smuggler!)

Very addictive, surprisingly feel-good, and I can’t wait for the next one!

If you give either of these a try, I’d love to know your thoughts!

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